Ken Griffey Jr. is one of baseball's most beloved players, and he has 25 rookie cards to prove it. We gathered the five most valuable Ken Griffey Jr. cards.
Updated Jul 25, 2023
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Over five years after playing his final major league game, Ken Griffey Jr. broke his last baseball record when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame with a 99.32% positive vote.
It was the highest approval rating in 24 years, and it illustrated what many baseball fans, players, and commentators already knew: There was a lot to like about Griffey Jr.
Ken Griffey Jr.'s career started in 1989, right in the middle of the junk wax baseball card era. A quick search for the value of his rookie card leaves you with one of the best examples of why it's called that. Griffey doesn't have just one rookie card like Mickey Mantle or Rickey Henderson, or even four like Nolan Ryan. Ken Griffey Jr. has at least 25 rookie cards.
Just as much as the lefty was known for his pristine swing and replay-worthy catches, Ken Griffey Jr.'s humility and constant smile on the field made him the favorite player of millions of fans worldwide. And with a career that spanned four calendar decades, many remember that smile and want a Griffey Jr. baseball card in their collections.
But are they worth investing in?
To figure that out, we first have to know which of his many, many rookie cards we’re talking about.
Let's take a closer look at the most valuable Ken Griffey Jr. cards to determine whether these rookie cards are right for your portfolio.
All-around one of the best players of all time, Griffey Jr. was a second-generation athlete. Ken Griffey Sr.’s career overlapped with Junior's. In 1990, they became the first father and son to play on the same MLB team simultaneously. One time, they even hit back-to-back home runs to open a game.
While Griffey Sr. instilled in his son a team-over-player mentality, Griffey Jr.’s own accomplishments are pretty astounding. Throughout his 21-year career, he played for the Seattle Mariners, the Cincinnati Reds, and the Chicago White Sox and set more than one MLB record. He won the Gold Glove ten years straight and led the American League in home runs for four of those years.
Griffey Jr. stole bases aplenty, snatched seemingly guaranteed home run balls out of the air, and ranked #7 for all-time home runs with 630 to his name.
Ken Griffey Jr. statistics and highlights
1989 - 2010
All star game participation
Gold Glove wins
Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox
Hall of Fame induction
In the junk wax era, a lot of people thought collecting baseball cards was an easy retirement. People who didn’t even follow baseball were buying hundreds of packs and just putting them away for later—whenever that would be.
With all those buyers, companies churned out enormous print runs for close to a decade. If you had a dollar and a dream, there was a pack sitting on the shelf waiting for you at K-Mart.
This meant not only were there over 25 different Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards out there, but that none of them were in short supply.
That doesn’t mean none of them have value. If it’s not in Gem Mint condition, then your Ken Griffey Jr. card is probably nice to look at but worth little more than the memories it brings.
We sifted through all 25 Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards to identify the most valuable, interesting, and rare of Griffey's cards. See which cards are in high demand and learn how you can add a Griffey card to your collection.
The 1989 Bowman Tiffany #220 Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card.
Bowman was running away with the baseball card market until Topps came around in the early 1950s and changed the game. In 1955, Topps bought the company and Bowman didn’t make another baseball card until this set in 1989, of which Ken Griffey Jr. was the cornerstone.
With slightly larger dimensions and more stylish card features than traditional cards at the time, this was a special Griffey card from the moment it came out.
What was later to be known as the Tiffany edition is a much smaller line of premium cards. Tiffany cards include the same photos and information, but their cardstock is thicker, the glossy finish is shinier, and the traditional gray back is a nice, clean white. The best thing about these cards though was the limited print run of about 6,000 sets. For perspective, in the regular line, PSA has graded almost 2,500 at 10 or Gem Mint condition.
A chart showing the value of a 1989 Bowman Tiffany card from January 2008 to July 2022 (not inflation adjusted).
In 2021, Rally acquired a PSA Gem Mint of the Bowman Tiffany baseball card—one of 156 cards at this appraisal. For those who want to invest in a valuable Ken Griffey Jr. card without putting thousands of dollars into one, the Rally investing app offers fractionalized shares of this and hundreds of other collectible assets.
Starting October 3, 2022, investors can bid on shares starting at $7.75 each, with a market cap of $15,500. While Rally stores the Griffey card to keep it in Gem Mint condition, investors can let their shares appreciate as the asset gains value, and trade shares on the Rally marketplace when they want to cash out or invest more.
A Ken Griffey Jr. sticker from the 1989 Topps collection.
One of the most notable Ken Griffey Jr. cards isn't a card at all, but more an oddball collector's item. In 1989, Topps put out a small run of stickers in the shape of Griffey's head as a test before releasing a full run in 1990. If you're lucky enough to find one of these in graded form, they go for thousands. Currently, PSA has only graded 21 of these stickers, mostly grades of 4 to 6. There's just one PSA 9 and there are no PSA 10s. The only one we found on the market in September 2022 is a PSA 5 available for $4,000 on eBay.
Chart tracking the value of an SGC 10 Pristine 1989 Upper Deck card from April to September 2022.
In 1989, Upper Deck was making their debut. Understanding the value Ken Griffey Jr. was going to play in baseball, they chose to make Griffey's card #1 in the set. This card and novelty inserts like the Michael Jordan baseball rookie card would establish Upper Deck as a company whose cards were just a little cooler than the competition.
And for a kid who would become known for his ever-present smile, the Upper Deck Star Rookie card is strangely one of the few of Griffey's 25 rookie cards where he’s actually smiling. For these reasons, this card remains the most highly sought after and most valuable Griffey rookie card. Though the asset has lost 50% of its value in the five months it has been trading on Collectable, it gained $1,550 in value in just one month after the card's price hit its lowest point in August 2022.
In fact, this particular card has 90,000 copies that have been rated by PSA alone. Over 4,000 of the cards submitted are rated 10 and about 29,000 have a rating of 9. That’s why it's surprising that this card was fetching $15,000 in early 2022. The most expensive Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card is one of these Upper Deck cards—an autographed card that sold for $30,400 in July 2021.
However, since mid-2022, investors have come to their senses and are selling the card while the price is still high.
Chart tracking the value of an SGC 10 Pristine 1989 Upper Deck card from April to September 2022.
Some investors might hold onto their Star Rookie cards, or at least a fraction of them. The investing app Collectable offers shares in an SGC-graded 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. card with a market cap of $7,750. Though the asset has lost 50% of its value in the five months it has been trading on Collectable, it gained $1,550 in value in just one month after the card's price hit its lowest point in August 2022.
All four Mother's Cookies collectible Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards.
Sports cards were so plentiful in 1989 that you didn’t even have to buy them. A trip to a fast food restaurant—or, in this case, buying a box of Mother’s Cookies—was enough to get you your very own Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card.
As a limited run, Mother’s Cookies issued these four cards. Each box would hold only one of the four cards as a 'collect ‘em all' promotion. While the portraits look more like Little League pictures than an announcement of Griffey's major league career, the rookie was clearly loving the camera.
Griffey's winning smile and the card's clean design definitely sold some cookies and helped fans find their favorite Ken Griffey Jr. card. Once again, though, the massive print runs of these cards made them less valuable than they should be.
PSA has graded 6,500 of these cards, with almost 2,700 of the cards submitted coming in as Gem Mint 10s.
Of the 10s, PSA shows these going for $185 to $850 in 2021.
The 1989 Bowman Tiffany #259 featuring Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr.
Another from Bowman’s TIffany collection, this was one of four cards to celebrate father–son pairs. The clean lines of what looks like a 3-D television with Ken Griffey Sr. popping out of the screen was just the thing to make this card really stand out.
Unfortunately, even though this card features two legends and is part of the same series as the most valuable Ken Griffey Jr. card, investors haven’t shown this card much love. According to PSA, the value of this card in Gem Mint condition is only $250.
Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the all-time greatest ball players. He came up at a time when interest in collecting baseball cards was greater than any other time in history. While that might sound like a great combination, this has really hurt the potential of Griffey Jr. rookie cards as investments.
The great news is that if you’re a fan of Ken Griffey Jr., you can get any number of his top-rated rookie cards to keep and cherish. But if you're after an impressive ROI, there are much more valuable cards to go after.
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